WMU Sunseeker heads to Texas for Formula Sun Grand Prix

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Photo of 2013 Sunseeker team.

The 2013 Sunseeker team

KALAMAZOO—Members of Western Michigan University's Sunseeker solar race team are celebrating 23 years of solar racing with a trip to Austin, Texas, to compete Monday through Saturday, June 24-29, against teams from other engineering colleges in the Formula Sun Grand Prix 2013.

A total of 12 collegiate teams from the United States and Canada will compete in the annual track race that is held on grand prix or road style closed courses. It differs significantly from the American Solar Challenge biennial cross-country race that can be up to 2,500 miles in length and is run on normal highways. On years when the American Solar Challenge is held, the Formula Sun Grand Prix—FSGP—serves as the qualifier race for that competition.

Formula Sun Grand Prix

"The FSGP is a unique style of solar car racing that truly tests the limits of the vehicles in handling curves, braking, and acceleration," says Joshua Allen, the Sunseeker team project manager. "The racing strategy applied during the three day FSGP track event focuses on driver training, passing strategy and quick pit stops. It’s also essential to have a diligent team member in the timing booth and follow all of the rules of the track to ensure all laps get counted."

The FSGP will be held at the Circuit of Americas Track in Austin. The event will include three days of inspections followed by three days of track racing. The winner of FSGP is determined by the total number of laps completed over the three days of racing. The team that completes the fastest single lap around the track is also recognized in the event's closing awards ceremony.

According to Allen, the team will be sending nightly emails and tweets on each day's events. The team is encouraging interested members of the public and media to follow its daily blog at wmich.edu/sunseeker. The nightly debriefing will include photo and videos. To sign up to receive evening briefings via email, contact the team at sunseeker@wmich.edu.

Solar racing at WMU began in 1990. University teams, which adopted the Sunseeker name from the start, have participated in 11 American Solar Challenge cross-country races.

Team members

Sunseeker team members, their majors, roles on the team and hometowns are:

  • Joshua Allen; aeronautical engineering, project manager; Reese, Mich.
  • Megan Derwich; engineering design technology; support team; Livonia, Mich.
  • Robert Galman; electrical engineering; pit crew; Orland Park, Ill.
  • Joesph Hagye; engineering design technology; pit crew; Muskegon, Mich.
  • Bryan Harris; engineering management technology, mechanical lead; Wixom, Mich.
  • Byron Izenbaard; electrical engineering; electrical lead; Vicksburg, Mich.
  • Joseph Kawka; aeronautical engineering; driver; Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Vince Kucway; engineering management technology; lead driver; Macomb, Mich.
  • Denis Maina; aeronautical engineering; pit crew; Nairobi, Kenya
  • Diomedes Mbekenga; electrical engineering; pit crew; Grand Rapids, Mich.
  • Charlie Schlansker; mechanical engineering; pit crew; Saline, Mich.
  • Renee Shedlock; computer science; public relations; Wixom, Mich.
  • Zachary Tait; aeronautical engineering; telemetry; Brighton, Mich.
  • Joel Thompson; mechanical engineering; driver; Portage, Mich.
  • Benson Vandestreek; manufacturing engineering technology; pit crew; Kalamazoo.
  • Sarah Vicary; mechanical engineering; driver; Hartland, Mich.

The team advisor is Dr. Bradley Bazuin, associate professor of electrical and computer engineering.

For more information, contact Allen and the team at sunseeker@wmich.edu.